A very important and often neglected aspect of training and racing is post run recovery.
When doing high quality sessions and long runs of over 2 hours, a good recovery routine becomes crucial for ensuring you are good to go for your next session.
Fitness gains happen during the recovery process when the body rebuilds itself to a fitter state after training. Neglecting recovery will result in lower gains from training, less consistent training, increased tiredness and soreness leading to possible overtraining and increased risk of infection.
The principles of recovery can be summed up in the 3 R’s, Refuel, Rehydrate and Repair.
It is important to replenish your glycogen stores, which would have been depleted during the race or training session, as soon as possible. Within 15 minutes of completion, either drink 500ml of a carbohydrate drink or eat a high GI carbohydrate snack such as banana or dried fruit. Follow up with a nutritious well balanced meal as soon as possible after.
Including a small amount of protein in your post training snack, will help for repair of your muscles and will further improve the absorption of the carbohydrate. My personal favorite is a peanut butter egg shake which is prepared as follows:
In a blender combine: 1 Glass milk, 1 Banana, 1 Raw egg, 1 spoon honey, 1 spoon Cashew/Almond/Peanut butter. Feel your muscles being nourished as you drink!
Not only do you lose a lot of water during a long race or training session, but also electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) which play an important role in the healthy functioning of your muscles, nerves and energy system. It is therefore important that your rehydration drink contains added electrolytes for replenishment.
The soreness you experience in your legs after a long hard race is due to microscopic tears in your muscles.It is similar to taking a knife to a piece of steak and shredding it.
You want the healing process in the muscles to start as soon as possible and you also want to breakdown the accompanying scar tissue that forms as the muscle heals. Ice and massage are very effective in aiding the healing process.
Ice your muscles by either standing in icy water or by massaging them gentle with ice blocks. This helps to reduce the inflammation in the muscles and constricts the blood vessels to push out waste products. For a great homemade ice massage tool, freeze water in a polystyrene cup and tear off the top of the cup to massage. The bottom of the cup provides a protective grip against frozen fingers.
Follow with a light massage (or self-massage by rolling on a foam roller), this in turn increases the flow of fresh oxygenated blood back to the muscles to speed up the healing process.
Another effective way of relaxing those tired muscles and stimulating healing is to take a warm bath in Epsom salts. Have a good stretching sessions straight after your bath while the muscles are warm and pliable.
Sleep – Getting a good night’s rest is very important for repairing the body and the mind. During the REM phase of sleep, the body is able to restore organs, bones and tissue; replenish immune cells and circulate human growth hormone (important for muscle repair and rebuilding.)
Train hard, recover harder!